Strategic Advancement: A Team Effort for Continuous Improvement

Strategic Advancement

At a recent Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) luncheon, the speaker from a respected Community Foundation offered several observations about the state of philanthropy in 2010. The executive described the current state of philanthropy as “competitive, to say the least.” The path forward, in her view, is for non-profit leaders to understand and embrace the idea that strategies must change, and nonprofit leaders must think “outside the box.”

In this climate, as we all know, development professionals are under a great deal of pressure to produce. It is not unusual for a development officer to be handed an increased financial objective while the staff and budget to accomplish the goals have been reduced. Many nonprofit fundraising professionals are being asked to work harder and smarter, and to do so in this very challenging economic climate.

 Advancement: A Team Effort

Especially in the current environment, successful fundraising does not operate in a vacuum. Today, non-profit organizations must view fundraising in the broader context of institutional advancement –which brings together and aligns several important functions, including:

    • fundraising
    • strategic planning
    • board development
    • marketing
    • public relations
    • communications

While the focus is often on fundraising and the “bottom-line” revenue goals, successful fundraising depends on the alignment, coordination, and support of all other functions. Advancing an organization is truly a team effort.

To be effective, the development director needs to be an integral part of the organization’s management team – helping to shape, guide and drive the destiny of the organization on an on-going basis.

 The Elements of Strategic Advancement

If you want to move your institution forward, what must be done? We can identify eight proactive steps:

    1. Research and assess the organization, its performance and its environment
    1. Develop an effective strategic plan for advancement (if not for the entire business model of your organization)
    1. Review and empower your governing board
    1. Strengthen and empower the development function
    1. Position the organization to better communicate your mission, vision and competency
    1. Develop a compelling case for support
    1. Increase positive awareness and visibility of your organization
    1. Pursue continuous improvement in the organizations’ fundraising capacity

Through the process of strategic advancement, the development function can be empowered – helping to shape, guide, and drive the destiny of the organization, as it was meant to do and has the potential to do.

Successful development professionals make it their business to listen to the organization’s constituents. Most importantly, they have the capacity to build and maintain authentic relationships, based on shared values and aspirations, with known and respected leaders. These leaders, in turn, are often the people who have the vision and financial capacity to advance the organization, and to become effective advocates.


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For more information on Strategic Advancement, please visit our website and download a free copy of Volume 12 in our Goettler Series.